With the blast of high octane cricket culminating with the finals of the Indian Premier League Season 4, Hindi general entertainment channels have big treats lined up for their viewers. The past three months have seen a sharing of television audiences between channels as loyalties were divided, first for the ICC World Cup and then continuing with IPL.
But cricket action or not, this did not dissuade two big players – STAR Network’s Star Plus and MSM’s Sony Entertainment Television – from launching new shows during this period. Star Plus launched a dedicated weekend block with three fresh shows in the beginning of February, just before the World Cup mania kicked off.
In the past few months, Sony has also been one to take the new generation shows route by launching weekday properties in the late night slot, including a Yash Raj Films show. However, it decided to wait out the cricket period to launch its upcoming daily fiction show ‘Bade Achche Lagte Hain’, a property the channel is banking heavily upon. ‘X Factor’, the format reality show, went on air on May 29, 2011, and is scheduled for the 9 pm slot on Fridays and Saturdays. ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ will be on air in August.
Star Plus is also gearing up to roll out a series of shows in the next few months. These include, fiction show ‘Is Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Do’ and dance format show ‘Just Dance’ in June. In October, big ticket property, ‘Survivor’, is another show to watch out for. It may be recalled that in the first year of IPL, Star had launched ‘Paanchvi Paas’, which did not take flight and had admittedly “undermined” the power of IPL. As Sanjay Tripathy, EVP & Head - Marketing & Direct Channels, HDFC Life, observed, “Historically, new shows experience a viewership spike for the initial episodes, which eventually drops by a substantial degree. Launching a show during IPL, which has a whole host of dedicated viewers, is a very risky step as it may not get even the initial viewership pull.”
Big, But Not Big Ticket
Though Hindi GECs have launched original programming in these months, they are not their biggest shows. Zee TV launched ‘Choti Bahu’ in mid-February, a daily in the primetime band, but has reserved ‘Shobha Somnath Ki’ for later. Towards the end of March, Colors launched a weekend band too with two fresh fiction shows. Star Plus launched comedy show ‘Maha Muquabla’ in March, which grabbed substantial GRPs for the channel when the World Cup was moving towards its crucial quarter finals stage. In the same week, Colors also launched its entertainment reality show ‘Guinness Ab India Todega’ with Preity Zinta.
Now, with an influx of new shows lined up by Hindi GECs, there stands a chance of a clutter of big shows. It may lead to the question as to how wise was it to schedule their shows for this period, especially because on the rating meter, IPL has performed below average this season.
Abraham Alapatt, Senior Vice President and Head - Brand and Corporate Communication, Future Generali, agreed that in hindsight, there was not much need for GECs to postpone their big shows till the IPL got over. He said, “Television viewers had seen enough of high-quality cricket during the World Cup and consumer interest was at its peak when India reached the finals. People hardly got any time to enjoy, celebrate or cherish India’s win, as IPL kicked in immediately after the World Cup final.”
Hence, one could say viewer fatigue had set in and consumer interest was relatively lower. In such a scenario, had any channel taken the risk of launching a big-ticket property, it would have given disproportionate returns to the channel due to lack of competition. A similar example was seen in Bollywood, when all big films were postponed during the World Cup. Now, (post IPL) all these delayed big-ticket properties will be launched at the same time, eating into each other’s market share.
Sanjay Tripathy observed that new shows usually competed with each other throughout the year. IPL doesn’t quite defer or determine show launch dates. “None of the new shows launched by Hindi GECs had content interesting enough to divert traffic during IPL. It was the on-going soaps with a loyal audience that drove TRPs for the respective channels,” he pointed out.
Shailesh Velandy, a senior media observer, felt that the period after IPL might be deemed as an artificial seasonality for television content by the broadcasters. He noted, “The void so created at the end of the marquee IPL contest, theoretically, is clamoured by the individual marquee offerings by the respective broadcasters. So, just as the consumer durables companies are ready with their marketing war chest to be unleashed during Diwali, so do the GECs’ contest with each other to stand out putting their best foot forward.”
Speaking on the effect of an event such as IPL on Hindi GECs, he said, “The viewership of IPL every week is just a fraction of the total GEC consumption every week. Quantitatively, the GRPs are less than a quarter of the GRPs garnered by all the GECs. The entire hype and drama revolving around paying total obeisance to this property by the GECs is possibly over-rated. Having stated thus, beyond television viewership numbers, it is the single biggest property/ event running at the time in the country. From obeisance to a healthy respect is how I expect to see the approach by broadcasters.”
Show The Show Some Money!
As Velandy pointed out, each of these shows seem to have a trick, if not a star, up their sleeves. For a media planner or buyer or an advertiser, which of these shows will fare well is anybody’s guess.
As an advertiser, Alapatt analysed that shows like KBC were well established. ‘Just Dance’ has a premium celebrity like Hrithik Roshan debuting on the small screen. ‘Survivor’ should help brands with a young, male target audience, while ‘Bade Acche Lagte Hain’ on Sony TV with Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar should do well for women-centric brands. “It is only the content of the show and how controversial they get that will help these shows attract and sustain viewership. In the past, we have seen this going wrong for ‘KBC2’ and ‘Zor Ka Jhatka’,” he added.
Sheran Mehra, Senior Vice President and Head - Marketing, Dhanlaxmi Bank, said, “It is difficult to comment on the success of shows when even a Shah Rukh Khan show did not perform. I would rather put my money on established shows that have a set viewership. In the fragmented market, it is not necessary that a reality show will work and a fiction show will not perform. It depends on the deal that the channel gives on each show.”
With promotions during IPL, a large number of first time viewers have been exposed to the show promos, which would lead them to sample the show. And if the content has the capacity to hold or involve the audience, it will yield dividends to the channel and the brands that sponsor or advertise.